GRAND RAPIDS, Mich. — According to exit polling, President-elect Donald Trump garnered more support from Hispanic voters than Mitt Romney did in 2012.
Trump’s decisive victory stunned Democrats and Republicans alike.
When Robert Torres went to vote, he said, “I was actually looking for someone as inspiring as Abe Lincoln to be on the ballot.”
That’s a tall order for any presidential candidate to fill, but Torres said the country needs someone like Lincoln to bring everyone together.
“The reality is: we entered into the election a nation divided. We wake up the day after a nation divided,” he said.
Torres said this election illustrated that Latinos are diverse when it comes to political ideology. He cited polling results in Texas and Florida which both went red for Trump.
He’s the executive director of the Hispanic Center of West Michigan which serves Greater Grand Rapids’ growing Latino population. Torres said economic opportunity, gainful employment and improving one’s quality of life is what people in the Latino community desire.
As the son of Mexican immigrants, Torres said he grew up in a family of 13 in a migrant camp in Ohio.
“So when you talk about issues of immigration and undocumented… that’s my family experience,” he said.
“There’s no doubt that you’ve had families that have awoken today, and there’s the fear that at any moment the family can be broken up,” Torres stated.
It’s a fear that was already familiar to the community before this election, under the Obama administration’s deportation efforts.
But he said that fear has been fueled by strong rhetoric from Trump on the campaign trial, including his negative generalizations of Latinos.
“What’s been resurrected is something that’s been there,” Torres said.
However, in addition to making an economic impact on the region, Torres said many individuals in the Latino community are patriotic. Torres is a Marine who served in the Gulf War. It’s a stage where people pay the ultimate sacrifice for our freedoms.
“And to have to sit here and to have to accept that we’re a nation divided is unacceptable,” he said.
Torres said it’s time for people of all backgrounds to put their political differences aside, come together, and stay informed.
Torres said, “[I’m] very hopeful that we’re not like that America has just been painted. That we’re better than that.”
He added, “To that end, what we look to do is to make sure that our Latino community and those that may be affected by change in policy that we are able to be on the forefront of addressing a response to whatever changes may happen.”